Cuckoo roller

The Cuckoo Roller is seen as a good omen – particularly by couples in love!

Brian Ralphs

Featuring the unique cuckoo roller or courol, it holds a singular place in the avian world as the only family within its order, confined to the verdant forests and woodlands of Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. This medium-sized bird bears an evolutionary tale in its very anatomy; its eyes, set deep in the back of its head, and a relatively short bill are physical adaptations suited to its predatory lifestyle.

The cuckoo roller’s zygodactyl feet, with two toes facing forward and two backward, equip it superbly for life amid the trees, enabling it to clamber and cling to branches easily. This toe configuration is a distinct trait that sets it apart from many other bird species and is integral to its arboreal habits.

Sexual dichromatism marks the species, with males displaying a striking bluish-green plumage and contrasting grey or white underparts, while the females are adorned in a more subdued brown with pale, spotted underparts that offer camouflage among the forest’s dappled light. This difference in coloration plays a role not only in mating but also in the differing behaviors of the sexes, with the males’ brighter colors possibly serving to attract females and deter rivals.

Their diet is an eclectic mix of small vertebrates and insects, indicating their role as both predators and controllers of insect populations. They feast on a variety of prey, from small lizards and geckos, which they snatch from the bark of trees to caterpillars, stick insects, and grasshoppers, showcasing their adaptability and skill as hunters.

The cuckoo roller’s reproductive habits are as curious as its appearance. They build their nests in tree cavities, where they lay a small number of eggs, and both parents participate in the care of their young, which is not always the case in the avian world.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Comoros
2016
Madagascar
2016
Mayotte
2016

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No